Warning: The following story deals with intimate partner violence and may be distressing for some readers.
A Dease River First Nation man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for the 2017 deaths of Sarah MacIntosh and Wendy Carlick.
Everett Chief, 48, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in March. He was originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder in 2018.
During sentencing on Aug. 17 and 18, Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan of Yukon Supreme Court called the women’s deaths a “senseless and violent tragedy.”
She said two consecutive nine-year sentences were “fit and appropriate.” A joint submission will see Chief designated as a long-term offender and subject to a 10-year supervision order when released.
The two women were found dead on April 19, 2017 in the home they shared in the McIntyre subdivision of Whitehorse.
Chief is originally from the Yukon community of Watson Lake.
Heart of gold
Friends of Macintosh say she had a heart of gold, a soft soul, and would never hurt anybody.
Carlick was well known for her community advocacy on behalf of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Her 19-year-old daughter, Angel Carlick, was murdered in 2007.
“She was an amazing person,” Carlick’s niece, Melissa Carlick, told APTN News. “She had a lot to live for.”
According to the agreed statement of facts, MacIntosh’s daughter discovered the women’s decomposing bodies on April 19, 2017.
The women had been beaten to death. Autopsies showed they sustained multiple blunt force injuries.
A fingerprint found on an empty vodka bottle was linked to Chief. He later confessed to police and an undercover officer he committed the crimes after an argument broke out between him and MacIntosh during a night of drinking.
The court was told Chief and MacIntosh had an “on-again-off-again” relationship with a history of violence. At the time of MacIntosh’s death, Chief had a probation order prohibiting him from contacting her following a 2016 assault conviction.
Before the sentencing, Melissa Carlick read a victim impact statement describing her family’s experience with the justice system.
“I can tell you that the justice system is flawed and has immensely impacted my family and I,” she said, noting Chief was distantly related to Carlick, which she felt made the death more egregious.
She said Chief should have received a stiffer sentence.
“The price (Chief) is paying is unfair and unjust.”
A community impact statement from members of KDFN detailed how the women were well loved and involved with helping young and vulnerable people, especially young women.
It went on to say the women’s deaths led to many negative effects for community members, such as increased drinking, drug use and suicide attempts.
The court also heard Chief had a traumatic childhood, and experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse throughout his life.
His lengthy criminal record includes 56 previous convictions: 12 for violence, one for sexual assault, and several related to intimate partner violence.
Psychiatric evaluations show Chief has cognitive difficulties similar to people who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome although he hasn’t been diagnosed.
Chief had apologized to the families several times.
The judge shaved more than seven years off the sentence by giving Chief credit for time served in pre-trial custody.
She said she hoped the sentence would bring “some measure of peace” to the families.
But in the courtroom during sentencing, one person exclaimed, “That’s it?” while another appeared to say, “That’s nothing.”
Melissa Carlick told APTN she did not agree with the initial plea bargain that led to the manslaughter charge and was disappointed Chief’s Gladue Report was included in the sentencing.
A Gladue report documents an accused self-identifying Indigenous person’s life, such as their family background, intergenerational trauma and lived experience in their community and is used by a judge when deciding on a sentence. Self-identifying Indigenous people facing sentencing, bail or parole hearings are entitled to have a Gladue report prepared for a judge to review.
“Because of the Western justice system, my family didn’t have a choice but to accept the price he’s paying,” she said.
Catering to Chief
She said she also thought the justice system was “catering” to Chief.
“Throughout and leading to sentencing, for example, we had to go with his plea bargain and his delay to get the Gladue Report in,” she said.
She noted it felt like there was an unfair focus on Chief having the choice to change and his willingness to reconnect to his culture.
“He took two women’s lives, you know; at the end of the day it wasn’t enough. He shouldn’t have got credit for time served. But, no matter what, I don’t feel it would ever be enough.”